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David's Tip of the Day: Different Types of Tremolo and Vibrato - Part 5, Vibrato (Mouth Tuning)

David Barrett Admin's picture

Item two of our three elements needed to produce a vibrato on the harmonica was, "Mouth is tuned to the note you're playing."

An experienced player of the harmonica subconsciously tunes their mouth to each note they're playing. This mostly has to do with tongue position, but can also involve the shape of the mouth (especially for very low and high notes... of which are different shapes of course... larger for lower notes and smaller and more frontal for higher notes).

A newer player with less bending experience has to move their tongue quite a bit to engage a bend. An experienced player starts to move their tongue and the note immediately begins to bend. This learned tongue position is the body's way of being ready for the common act of bending on any hole of the harmonica, at any time.

A way to test if your body is ready for the vibrato is to play a 4 draw... holding it... thinking that you're about to bend, but not bending yet... and then moving your tongue every-so-slightly in the direction of the bend. If the note immediately starts to bend, then your mouth has learned the muscle memory of bending for that 4 draw. Try the same test on the 6 draw and then 2 draw. If your mouth shape changes in preparation to play each hole/note, and the bend is immediate when you start to move your tongue, then you're ready to move on in the vibrato process.